Daily Archives: 10 September 2009

Missing You: When the GM Can’t Be There

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Players aren’t the only ones who miss the occasional game session. Every once in a while the GM gets called into work at the last moment, or his wife (or the GM herself!) goes into labor early… there are numerous reasons why a GM might have to miss a particular session.

cat-missing-youSo with a missing GM, you’re going to have to cancel the game for tonight, right?

Not necessarily. Here’s a list of ideas for your group to try the next time your GM gets hit over the head with Real Life™:

  • Run a “pick up” game. Designate someone else as GM for the night and choose another game system for a one-shot. You’ll want something with very quick character creation so you can actually get in some play time. Tales from the Floating Vagabond is a good game system for this.
  • Have an alternate campaign. The GM for a D&D game I’m currently playing in has had more than his share of Real Life™ recently. Consequently, one of the other players has started up a dungeon crawl game we play when our regular game can’t meet. In some games, you can actually set up a situation where PCs can come and go, depending on who’s available to play any particular time. Everway can be good for this, as can any town or city adventure.
  • Play a board game. Or computer game. Or whatever.
  • Have a brain-storming session. Get as many of the PCs as available and sit down to discuss your current in-game situation and make plans for the future. My players tend to do this spontaneously… when we’re out to dinner, before/after a movie, at non-gaming parties…. They’ll do it even if I’m standing right there!.
  • Have a movie night.
  • Run a “It coulda happened…” session. My players did this once when I was called into work unexpectedly. They chose someone to be the GM and, based on what they knew of the game already, ran a session of  my game without me. Everybody knew that the events of this session wouldn’t “count” — i.e. nothing that happened during this game session really occurred in game. The players loved it and I was insanely jealous that I didn’t get to play that session. :(
  • Have a back-up GM. I took this page out of Ars Magica and its “troupe-style” play. That is, the every player is both GM and PC, with the GMing duties rotating around the group. Each person is responsible for their own section of the world or game. For example, each person is in charge of a different country and takes over as GM when the group enters “their” country. This option is one you really can’t do “spur of the moment” — the game has to be set up this way from the beginning. If the regularly scheduled GM can’t make it, another GM takes over for that session.
  • Run a “day in the life of” session. Pick some very minor characters from the game, such as Bernie the Shopkeeper and his wife Ethyl, their two kids, a couple of their cousins, etc. Or the members of a local sports team, a group of masons, the employees of a business… you get the picture. Run a session that showcases their daily lives.

What does your group do when the GM can’t show? What new roleplaying twists have you experimented with and how did they turn out?

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